CDC: High School Smoking Rate Reaches New Low

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According to a recent statement by Matthew L. Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the recently released Youth Risk Behavior Survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), shows that the U.S. has cut high school smoking by more than half since rates peaked in 1997; the smoking rate reached a new low of 18.1 percent in 2011, falling from a high of 36.4 percent in 1997.

According to Myers, “The dramatic decline in youth smoking is a remarkable public health success story, reversing a large increase from 1991 to 1997. It means a healthier future for millions of children and will reduce the deaths, disease and health care costs resulting from tobacco use, the nation’s number one cause of preventable death.”

Myers also emphasizes that the CDC research provides powerful evidence to elected officials that the implementation of specific strategies is highly effective, including higher tobacco taxes, tobacco prevention and cessation programs that include mass media campaigns, strong smoke-free laws, and effective regulation of tobacco products and marketing.

The survey also shows that high school smoking declines have been more gradual in recent years, falling by 17 percent from 2003 to 2011 after dropping by 40 percent from 1997 to 2003. Myers points out that smoking declined sharply when cigarette prices skyrocketed and funding increased for tobacco prevention programs immediately after the 1998 legal settlement between the states and the tobacco companies. But smoking declines have since slowed as tobacco companies countered cigarette tax increases with deep price discounts and states slashed funding for tobacco prevention programs in recent years.

“To continue and accelerate progress, elected officials at all levels must step up implementation of the solutions that we know work,” says Myers.

This year, the CDC launched the nation’s first-ever, paid national media campaign to prevent kids from smoking and encourage smokers to quit. “The FDA must continue to effectively implement its new authority over tobacco products, and Congress must continue to fund the Prevention and Public Health Fund that supports disease prevention initiatives such as the CDC’s media campaign,” says Myers.